Collection scope, finding aids, & research guides




Is the Department of Drawings & Archives open to the public?

Avery Drawings & Archives welcomes the use of its collections to all researchers; a Columbia affiliation is not required.  Patrons who do not currently hold a Columbia ID or a Columbia reader’s card will need to visit the Library Information Office in Butler Library and present a government-issued, photo ID to obtain a reader’s card. This temporary pass will also allow you to access the books and periodicals in Avery Library for that day. Before a reader’s card can be issued, you must schedule an appointment in the Department of Drawings & Archives. 

Do I need an appointment?

Yes. We ask that all readers make appointments at least several days in advance. This is especially important if you must make travel plans to visit the archives.  

These guidelines are important since many items in the collection are large and the space in our Reading Room accommodates only a few patrons at a time. We also need to know in advance what materials to have ready for your appointment in order for us to maintain an efficient operation for our readers, especially since some of our collections are stored off-site.

How do I make an appointment?

To schedule an appointment, please send an email to avery-drawings@library.columbia.edu with the name of the collection(s) you would like to view. Please also include, when available, the box number(s) or drawing number(s) of the material you would like to see. If this information is not available, please indicate the name of the project(s) you are researching. Also include in the email your contact information (name, phone number, and email address), the preferred date and time for your appointment, and whether you will need an Reader's Card issued. D&A staff will confirm your appointment via email.

What should I bring with me?

You must show a Columbia University ID card or CUL Reader's Card to enter Avery Library. If you are not a Columbia affiliate, please see Is the Department of Drawings & Archives open to the public?.

You should also bring pencils (no pens) and notepaper. You may bring a laptop and a digital or film camera (no flash and no tripod). We provide power outlets, Ethernet ports, and wireless Internet access. Outerwear, backpacks, purses, bags, and other large items must be stored in our cubby storage while you are using the collections.

When are you open?

Our hours are Monday to Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

We are closed Saturdays and Sundays.

See our Hours Calendar.

Where are you located?

The Department of Drawings & Archives is in the Wallach Study Center for Art & Architecture on the 200-level of Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library on Columbia’s Morningside Heights campus.

Enter Avery Library (you will be on the 300-level) and take the main stairs directly behind the attendance station to the 200-level.  At the bottom of the stairs, turn left at the Reserve Desk.  Continue walking left until you enter the Fine Arts Stacks.  Keep following the purple floor until you enter the Wallach Study Center. The Department of Drawings & Archives is located in Room 213, which is past the double doors and display cases.   If you have any problems locating us, ask the attendant at the entrance or Reserves Desk for directions.

For more guidance, check the Interactive Map of Morningside Campus and Walking Instructions to Avery Library.

Are all your collections located onsite?

No. The majority of our collections is currently housed at Avery Library, but a portion of our 20th-century materials is held in Columbia's ReCAP facility in New Jersey. Off-site locations are noted in CLIO in the description under "Location." If the collection is noted as being "<Offsite>," advance notice will be required to use the material in the reading room. An advance notice is requested for all off-site materials. If there are any questions about the location of materials, please contact the department.

What does "in process" mean on your collections list? May I still see that collection?

"In Process" indicates that a collection is not yet properly inventoried. In some cases, readers may use portions of the collection. Please check with Drawings & Archives staff for information about the status and availability of these collections. Look for “In Process” notes in our collections list.

May I borrow items to view in another part of the library or to consult at home?

No. Our collections do not circulate; material is retrieved upon request for use in our reading room only. 

How much of your collection is digitized?

Only a few collections have been digitized at this time. We are adding sample digital images from many of our collections to individual collection overview pages linked from the collections list on our website. Given the quantity and sizes of materials in our collections, it's not practical for us to digitize everything.

What is your mailing address?

Dept. of Drawings & Archives
Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library
Columbia University
1172 Amsterdam Avenue, MC 0301
New York, NY 10027

Collection scope, finding aids, & research guides

What kinds of materials do you collect?

The bulk of our collection represents 19th- and 20th- century American architecture, particularly of New York and the surrounding region. Most of the collections represent firms no longer in active practice. We hold a diverse range of original and reprographic drawings, photographic materials, project and building files, business papers, correspondence, diaries, scrapbooks, and faculty and personal papers. With a few exceptions, we do not collect building models, fragments, or material samples.

How do I know if you have what I'm looking for?

A good place to start is by browsing our Drawings & Archives collections list. This list includes names of nearly all of our collections, generally titled by architect or firm name, with an indication of how each collection may be searched. Many of our major holdings have collection- and project-level records in CLIO, Columbia Libraries' Online Catalog. Researchers are advised to search CLIO by building and/or architect name(s) for the best results. This is especially important if you don't see the name you're researching on our collections list; we may indeed have materials by or about that architect or firm, but held within another collection.

For general inquiries, please send an email to avery-drawings@library.columbia.edu summarizing your research question and indicate any online research tools you have consulted (i.e. CLIO, Archival Portal, etc.) Please also include your contact information (name, phone number, and email address).

If I give you an address, can you tell me if you have drawings for the building?

Occasionally we can. If an address is listed on a drawing, it will be noted in our collection inventories and finding aids. However, many drawings do not include these details. Our collections are arranged by architect and project records are sub-divided by city and state, but we do not have a cross-collection index by address.

We will best be able to help you if you know the original architect and client for the project that you are researching. Our collections list provides a comprehensive overview of our holdings, with the most current information available online. For additional guidance on conducting architectural and archival research, please see the question "Where else can I find the research material I need?" below.

Is a call number from CLIO enough informtion for you to retrieve a projects?

No. What’s listed in CLIO as a “call number” is actually the beginning of the accession number for a collection. For example, a designation of “1972.001” means only that the record describes material from the first accession of 1972.

We will most easily be able to help you when you know the collection name and titles of the specific materials you’re interested in. CLIO has both collection-level and project-level records; click on the center "Full View" tab in CLIO to see the most complete information available. For project records, the "Full View" in CLIO may include item-level descriptions and accession numbers of individual drawings, as in this CLIO record, https://clio.columbia.edu/catalog/3461231.

Do you have drawings for/by/from...

...Columbia University Buildings?

Yes, but most of our drawings are for the Morningside Heights campus. See our collections list.

...McKim, Mead & White?

Yes, we do have a small collection. See our collections list.

...Carrère & Hastings?

Yes, we do have a small grouping of materials. See our collections list. However, most of the papers from the office of Carrère and Hastings were lost when the firm closed in 1929.

...the Empire State Building?

Yes, we have a large group of ESB materials and many of the photographs from the collection have been digitized. See our collections list.

...Frank Lloyd Wright?


...Le Corbusier?

Yes, but only a very small grouping. See our collections list.

...Olmsted Bros. or other landscape architects?

Yes, when associated with architectural work. Drawings for landscapes are sometimes included in the files of drawings for the built aspects of a specific project. We do not separate landscape drawings from architectural collections, so you will find these materials listed with the drawings and papers of the architect associated with the project on which the landscape architect worked.

Do you offer research services?

We can answer general inquiries about the holdings of this department over the phone or via email. However, we have a small staff and time does not permit us to provide in-depth or extensive research.

Where else can I find the research material I need?

Be sure to check our collections list for “See also” references to find specifically-related archival materials in collections at Columbia. Additionally, our CLIO records for catalogued collections include added names and subjects, so be sure to do a thorough search in CLIO for your desired name or term. Also look for "Related Holdings in Other Institutions" links on the collections list.

We also list many other significant architectural archives and general related resources on our Architectural Archives: Other Resources page.

Is it possible that no archive exists for a particular architect or firm

Unfortunately, yes. Architectural records may have been lost for a number of reasons. Institutions began collecting architectural drawings in earnest only in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Before then, individual original renderings were more highly prized than groups of printed working drawings and other project materials, which may have been discarded if there was no successor firm or family to maintain an office archive. Fires, floods, office moves, damp basements, and career changes have also claimed millions of records.


What are the guidelines if I want to publish items from Avery?

You must request permission to publish an image of any item in our collection, and a fee may be involved. For more detailed information and instructions, see Columbia University Libraries Publication and Digital Reproduction Policy and Procedures. We strongly recommend that you obtain necessary permissions before ordering reprography for publication from the Department of Drawings & Archives. Please note that permission fees do not include reprographic fees.

How can I get copies of material from Avery?

There are three options:

  1. Print photographs or digital files may be ordered; please refer to Avery's Photographic Services and Fees.
  2. Photocopies of loose manuscript material and some types of photographs may be ordered through Drawings & Archives' Reading Room staff at a cost of 20 cents a page and $14.00 an hour for labor.
  3. Additional reprographic options may be available for architects and building owners seeking copies of drawings to use for historic preservation.

Please note: Reprographic charges do not include permisson fees. All images ordered through the Department of Drawings & Archives may be used for study purposes only and may not be used for publication without permission from Avery Library. See Columbia University Libraries Publication and Digital Reproduction Policy and Procedures.

May I bring a camera?

Yes. You are welcome to bring your own film or digital camera. Permission to photograph items must be obtained from Drawings & Archives staff as items in the collection may be photographed only if their condition permits. Tripods and use of flash are not allowed. These images may be used for study purposes only and must not be used for publication. See Columbia University Libraries Publication and Digital Reproduction Policy and Procedures

May I bring a portable scanner?

No. Portable scanners and similar devices may damage archival material.


Do you accept donations to the Department of Drawings & Archives?

Yes. Many of our collections have arrived as donations from architectural firms and from individual architects and their family members. We also appreciate hearing from researchers who, during the course of their work, have located privately-held archives that might be available for donation. Because our collection covers a broad range of firms and subjects, we hope that anyone with questions about donations will email an inquiry to avery-drawings@library.columbia.edu.